My mom didn't even want to tell my dad. I let a few weeks go by of nail biting before I finally decided to suck it up and send him an email.
I know, I know. Email is the weenie pants way out, but it's what works best for my dad. Whenever I decided to leave the country, I told Dad via email. If I got a new pet, I told Dad via email. If I took out a new loan for college, I told Dad via email. Email is perfect because he can have his giant emotional reaction before I talk to him. The news has a little time to sink in. He can talk to his friends at work who will remind him that his kids are adults now and studying abroad or getting a new pet is not the same as juvenile delinquency.
An hour or two after I sent the email, my phone was ringing. It was Dad. I stared at it until it stopped ringing, and then forced myself to call him back.
"So... didja get my email?"
"Are... you... okay?"
"I'm on drugs."
"I got your email, and then I had a dentist appointment. So I went in and said to the dentist, 'My daughter is getting married. Can you give me some drugs?', and he did."
"So... you're fine?"
"No! My daughter is getting married! Of course I'm not fine!"
"I love you, Dad" I laughed.
"I love you, too. Congratulations. Or whatever."
I knew my dad. He would be excited, truly happy about this, only after we were actually married. He would accept it, then. But he would have to see it happen. There would be no eloping for a couple of fools in love like me and Joseph.
One more thing happened to further endear me to this ugly ring. As Genevieve had us all noticing hearts that happened accidentally or naturally and thinking of them as reminders of the Father's love for us displayed all over His creation, she also got us in the habit of acknowledging very simple eye shapes that occurred at random. To us, those had become a reminder that He is with us. Watching. Not in a creepy way, mind you. It meant that He is attentive to our lives.
So, when I woke up one morning, saw my ring, and in my half awake stupor thought to myself "Ack! It's looking at me!", the thing took on a little more significance. Now, not only did it represent our mountains, our home, but also the Lord's attention to our lives.
Joseph hadn't noticed the eye when he had purchased it.
It wasn't just an eye out in the world somewhere, it was right there in my engagement ring! Our Poppa was watching our relationship. He wasn't leaving us on our own. He was coming with us.
All of this was incredibly reassuring to me at the time I discovered it, because I was having a few doubts about the state of my fiance's soul. It was nothing I could put my finger on. He was doing all the "churchy" things that Christians are "supposed" to do, and I was pretty sure that that time on the mountain when the sun came back up was a salvation type moment for him.
Even though I don't think salvation is always a moment for everyone. Having been raised Catholic, I couldn't remember any exact moment when I chose to give myself to God. Sure, there had been little moments along the way, but no all important alter call or prayer with a fellow believer requested. I had always just known Him.
At a Baptist camp, once, when I was an early teenager, there was a pastor who scared the everlovin' snot out of me with an emotional alter call. I thought I should go up because he was pleading so intensely, but at the same time, I didn't want to because I felt like it would be a lie. To say I didn't know the Lord.
That night in the cabin, I tossed and turned all night, stressing out and asking God if that pastor was right - that if we didn't remember a time and a place, that we weren't "saved".
In the morning, I trooped down to the chapel with the other campers, and plopped, exhausted, into a folding chair. The pastor took the floor, and the very first thing he said was, "I have to apologize to you all. I made a mistake. Last night, when I told you that if you don't remember a time and a place - a specific moment that you got saved that it never happened, I was wrong. I was convicted when I got home, to tell you that sometimes it can be a process. It is different for everyone, because it is a personal relationship. "
Giant sigh. I was relieved.
A friend of mine nowadays likes to say (when he is asked when he was saved), "2,000 years ago and every day."
So my thoughts on salvation have always been a bit complex, and I gave up trying to guess about Joseph. Something still felt off, so I prayed for confirmation. Or something.
He had these new age-y books. One was about aliens, a few others were about the power of positive thinking or how drugs take you into a more spiritual realm. Normally books about things I disagree with don't bother me in the least, but it seemed that every time he cracked one of them, he would spend the next few days flailing about in a sea of doubt.
Music is a thing that I generally like or don't like based on how it makes me feel. I didn't have a problem with Joseph's playlist as it was, but something happened when he listened to certain bands. Like a cloud hung over him. Sometimes he said he felt heavy. Like he wanted to barf.
It was all confusing, and now we were engaged. Something had to give.
One cold, icy evening, Joseph asked Genevieve if they could talk. He said he believed, but it was like he was holding onto something that he needed to let go of. He wasn't sure what it was, and he wanted to let go. Once and for all, he wanted to be sure that he belonged to the Lord.
Genevieve asked if he had ever been baptized. He said that he had been christened as a baby, but as an adult, he wasn't a believer until recently, so ... no.
"Maybe you should think about being baptized." Genevieve suggested.
"Okay... well, could I get baptized like, right now?"
My fiance was like the eunuch in Acts, chapter 8! The eunuch had met up with a man named Philip, who explained the Gospel to him. As soon as he understood what it meant, and who Jesus was, he had asked to be baptized on the spot. He said something like, "Look! Here is water! What is there to stand in the way of me being baptized, right here and now?"
Jim had come down stairs to see what everyone was buzzing about. Yes, it was sleeting outside, and yes, it was 11 o'clock at night. But we knew of a river not too far away. What was there stopping Joseph from being baptized? Nothing, that's what!
As I thought about it, I had never really been baptized either. Well, maybe I had been. I had been christened as a baby, like Joseph. There were protestant churches every now and then that I wished I could have been a little more involved in, as a teen, but they all required membership. For membership, they required that one have been baptized as an adult, in the way they believed was Scriptural.
For Catholics, there is a sacrament called confirmation, which (spiritually) is basically the same as protestant baptism. Just without the symbolism of the water. It is standing before your church and stating that now that you are of an age to make your own choices, you are freely choosing this faith. This God.
I had been confirmed. To go through the formal ceremony of a baptism in a protestant church, I feared would break my momma's heart. I didn't want her to think I had totally rejected Catholicism. That wouldn't be accurate, either.
And there was that one time that I had been riding back to school with Grey, Christmas, and our friend Lael a few years back. There was a sudden downpour and we all got really excited and wanted to get out and play in it. Grey stopped the car on the side of the road and we commenced frolicking.
I discovered that we were right next to a river, so all three of us doffed our shirts and jumped in. The current was intense, but we were having so much fun. Grey had shouted, "Sarah! Let's play baptism! Can I baptize you?" I was totally game, and I secretly prayed that maybe God would make that count.
I wasn't sure if it did, though. Because my friends thought we were playing.
As Genevieve and Jim put on waders and Rosie, Josh, and Kentucky all bundled up for the van ride to the river, I quietly asked if maybe I could go ahead and be baptized, too. Since we were already about it. I explained that I wasn't sure that I really had been, and to have officially done it... would feel really solid.
I believe that God gives us tangible things to do when we hit a milestone with Him because He (having created us) knows that we are physical beings who live in a physical world. It is tremendously reassuring to be able to look back and say "I did that. It happened. I committed to Him, and I know it for sure because I was freezing cold and sopping wet."
At the river, we piled out of the van and climbed over the gate (that may or may not have been closed and locked at nightfall). We all ran through the sleet and into the water. Well, Genevieve and Jim ran into the water with Joseph and I. Rosie, Kentucky, and Josh stood on the shore in their raincoats.
We talked about what it all meant, and then we were baptized.
And it was so cold it knocked my breath out. Later on, I told Grey about it, and she looked a little sad.
"But... I thought I baptized you?"
I told her that I had secretly asked God if that time could please count. I must have underestimated my prayers. I had thought my friends were only playing, but Grey is a perceptive one. Turned out she knew all along.
So for me, this baptism was technically a little redundant, but it was still a treasured thing in so many ways.
For Joseph, however, it was a turning point. When we got home, the first thing he did was go get those new age-y books and throw them in the fire place. They would torment him no more.
He then went into his room and deleted the bands that made him feel so heavy.
That was the last time I felt disconcerted about where my dear one stood with God. I knew exactly where he stood.
Safe and secure. In the Father's hands.